Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) has been used in traditional herbal medicine for mental rejuvenation and longevity.
Gotu kola has also been used for gastrointestinal health, fevers, infections, and many other ailments.
Modern research has confirmed many of these benefits, and gotu kola may benefit brain disorders, blood pressure, skin health, and more.
This article covers the important benefits of gotu kola, its safety, and how to add this herb to your diet.
Table of Contents
What is Gotu Kola?
Gotu kola is a creeping herb primarily found in damp, swampy areas, such as Asia, South America, and Central America. It’s a hardy herb that can grow in many areas.
Interestingly, gotu kola has over 60 common names, including Indian Pennywort, Asiatic Pennywort, Marsh Penny, and Ji Xue Cao.
Gotu kola is rich in many bioactive compounds and nutrients, which may offer health benefits.
In particular, gotu kola contains:
- Triterpenes (such as asiaticoside, brahmoside, and madecassic acid)
- B-Complex vitamins
- Iron, calcium, and other minerals.
Among all these, the triterpenes (or triterpenoids) seem to be the most beneficial.
Triterpenes are a group of chemical compounds that possess a wide variety of health effects, including potential anti-inflammatory, immunosupportive, anti-cancer, and cognitive-enhancing activities.
Within this group, the most beneficial triterpenes seem to be:
- Asiatic acid
- Madecassic acid.
Health Benefits of Gotu Kola:
There are many potential health benefits of gotu kola, most of which are attributed to its main bioactive compounds (i.e. triterpenes). Modern research, including numerous clinical studies, has shown that gotu kola may offer the following health benefits:
1. May Enhance Cognition
The most well-researched benefit of gotu kola is cognitive enhancement. Various clinical studies show that gotu kola may benefit brain function in many ways.
In a clinical study on 39 elderly women with dementia, patients who received 500mg of gotu kola had significant improvements in memory recall. It seemed to especially help with language and visual memory recall.
Another clinical study found that those who received a high dose (750mg daily) of gotu kola had significant improvements in working memory and processing speed when compared to the control group.
In one clinical trial involving elderly individuals with mild-cognitive impairment, supplementation with 500mg of gotu kola extract twice daily improved brain function, including memory and language recall. Also, the patients showed noticeable improvements in appetite, sleep, and other areas of their lifestyle.
In another clinical trial of healthy adults, supplementation with three to four grams of gotu kola capsules helped to improve cognitive function, including working memory, attention, recall, visual-spatial thinking, and processing speed.
Lastly, a clinical study found that a standardized gotu kola extract helped to increase choline in the brain. This is important since choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, which is a vital neurotransmitter (brain chemical) involved in learning and memory, among other things. This study reveals a possible mechanism for the cognitive benefits of gotu kola.
Summary:Clinical research indicates that gotu kola may support cognitive function by improving memory, recall, and processing speed.
2. May Benefit Skin Health
Several research studies show that gotu kola may benefit skin health, including wound healing, increased moisturization, and damage protection.
In a clinical trial of 30 workers with dry skin, supplementation with a gotu kola cream significantly improved skin moisturization. These effects were similar to the effects of ceramide (a type of fatty acid that improves skin barrier hydration and moisturization), which was used on another group in the study. The researchers concluded that gotu kola may also help prevent the risk of contact dermatitis.
Also, a clinical study found that applying a gotu kola-based cream was associated with significant improvements in skin elasticity, moisturization, and wrinkle reduction.
In another clinical study, 20 women aged 20 to 60 used a cleanser of gotu kola extract, charcoal, and pearl powder. The women showed significant improvements in facial skin health; the formulation was especially good at facial cleansing.
In a clinical trial of 159 patients with dry skin, patients who received both a topical and oral extract of gotu kola had significant improvements in dry skin and overall skin health compared to the placebo. The researchers also noted that those who took gotu kola had higher levels of antioxidants.
In a clinical trial of 30 people with facial acne scars, the researchers applied a standardized extract of Centella asiatica to one side of the face and a placebo gel to the other side. They found that the side treated with gotu kola showed significant improvements in redness, crusting, and general wound appearance.
Lastly, in a clinical study of 25 volunteers, the researchers found that a gotu kola extract regimen improved skin moisturization and reduced inflammation levels.
Summary:Human clinical studies show that gotu kola may work to promote wound healing, increase moisturization, and decrease inflammation.
3. May Improve Blood Pressure
Gotu kola may also help reduce blood pressure and prevent conditions associated with hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure).
Typical symptoms of high blood pressure include edema (swelling caused by excess fluid) and microangiopathy (disease of small blood vessels in various body areas).
In a clinical trial of patients with hypertension and microangiopathy, those who received 60 or 120mg of triterpene-rich gotu kola extract showed significant improvements in circulation and blood vessel health.
In another clinical study of patients with high blood pressure, supplementation with gotu kola (especially the highest dose at 180mg) was associated with significant reductions in ankle swelling, and significant decreases in capillary filtration rate (CFR) compared to the placebo. CFR is important because it is one risk factor for edema development.
One clinical study of 40 patients with high blood pressure, patients who received 120mg of gotu kola showed significant reductions in ankle swelling and blood vessel symptoms, as well as a reduction in CFR compared to the placebo.
Another similar clinical trial in 40 patients with high blood pressure found that the subjects receiving gotu kola extract experienced significantly improved blood flow and circulation, and reduced leg swelling compared to the control group.
Finally, in a clinical study on 22 individuals aged 60 to 70 with hypertension, consumption of gotu kola tea significantly reduced blood pressure, including both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Summary:Clinical trials have found that gotu kola may benefit blood pressure by improving circulation and blood vessel health.
4. May Reduce Diabetes Complications
Research indicates that gotu kola may help with managing the symptoms of diabetes.
Clinical findings show that gotu kola may reduce diabetes complications, such as neuropathy. Neuropathy is a nervous system disorder accompanied by troubling symptoms, such as numbness, pain, tingling, and weakness.
In a pilot clinical study of type 2 diabetes subjects with diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), those who were given a triterpene extract of gotu kola showed significant improvements in diabetic neuropathy symptoms, such as numbness, when compared to the placebo.
In another clinical trial of 50 patients with diabetic microangiopathy, patients who received 60mg of gotu kola twice daily experienced significantly improved blood flow, circulation, and blood vessel health compared to the control group.
Additionally, a study on diabetic rats showed that the ones who were given gotu kola extract had significantly lower markers of inflammation and stress in the brain and kidneys compared to the control group. The researchers also noted that the gotu kola-treated rats had significantly higher levels of antioxidants than the control group.
Another study on diabetic rats found that those receiving gotu kola extract showed significantly decreased inflammation, oxidative stress, and brain damage compared to the control group. Moreover, the gotu kola-fed rats seemed to maintain near-normal brain function, which shows the potential for preventing brain complications connected with diabetes.
Summary:A combination of both human and animal studies shows that gotu kola may support individuals with diabetes. Additional clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
5. May Help With Anxiety
There is also a small amount of evidence that shows the potential benefits of gotu kola for reducing anxiety and stress.
In a clinical trial of 33 subjects with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), subjects who received 500mg of gotu kola twice daily showed significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and stress after treatment.
In one clinical study involving 40 individuals, those who received 12g of gotu kola showed a significantly diminished acoustic startle response compared to the control group. Acoustic startle response measures the strength of muscle reflexes in response to a sudden sound, which researchers use as a marker of anxiety. The researchers concluded that these effects may point to an anxiety-reducing effect of gotu kola.
In another study on socially isolated rats, the researchers found that treatment with gotu kola extract was related to significant reductions in anxiety and increases in antioxidant activity compared to the placebo.
Finally, a study on rats exposed to stressful situations found that rats who received gotu kola extract showed reduced anxiety, stress, cortisol (a stress hormone), and depression compared to the placebo. These effects were similar to rats who were given fluoxetine, a common drug for depression and anxiety.
Summary:Both clinical and lab-based research indicates that gotu kola may be useful in decreasing levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. Additional human studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Gotu Kola Safety:
Research has shown that gotu kola is generally safe to consume as an extract at 250 to 500mg per serving. It can be taken once or multiple times per day, with a total dose upwards of 2,000mg per day deemed safe.
The safe dose may even be higher than this, but this is the upper limit used in research studies.
Gotu kola administration has been associated with jaundice in a few rare case reports, but this does not appear to be a significant concern for most people.
Gotu kola has been used successfully in various clinical trials using a range of 250 to 1,000mg per day. A few studies have found benefits with even higher dosages (up to 2,000mg), but the standard dose for most health benefits seems to be around 250 to 1,000mg daily.
Gotu kola can be consumed in its whole form. However, it is more convenient to supplement with gotu kola in extract form. Additionally, extracts are typically standardized for triterpenes, which are the most beneficial compounds found in gotu kola.
When choosing a gotu kola supplement, look for products that are standardized for triterpenoids, including asiaticoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is considered a perennial herb and belongs to the Apiaceae family, which consists mostly of various aromatic flowering plants.
There are a number of well-known plants in this category, including celery (Apium graveolens), caraway (Carum carvi), cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), and anise (Pimpinella anisum).
One can identify gotu kola by its fan-shaped, odorless green leaves, thin stems, and small white or purplish-pink flowers. It is a low-growing herb found mainly in damp, swampy areas and in or around water.
History & Traditional Use:
Gotu kola has been used for thousands of years in many traditional medicine systems, including India, China, and Sri Lanka. It is often referred to as the “herb of longevity” or “fountain of life” due to claims that it can extend lifespan.
In Ayurveda, gotu kola was used primarily as a mental rejuvenator and to enhance cognition, memory, and mental clarity. It was also used for inflammation, skin disorders, fever, difficulty breathing/asthma, and other conditions.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, gotu kola was used for longevity, diarrhea, boils, other skin ailments, traumatic injuries, bladder conditions, and other disorders.
Gotu kola has a rich history of use in Indian, Ayurvedic, Chinese, and other traditional medicines for cognition, longevity, infections, fevers, and many other ailments. Modern research has revealed many beneficial compounds in gotu kola, mainly triterpenoids.
Additionally, gotu kola seems to have the potential to enhance cognition, improve skin health, reduce complications of diabetes and blood pressure, and decrease anxiety and stress.
Altogether, gotu kola may be an effective herbal supplement for various conditions when dosed properly.
Always consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplement.